Spineshank Return with Original Singer and New Album
After six years away from the spotlight, Spineshank have returned and are ready to release a new record. The LA-based metal band formed in 1996 and released three albums on Roadrunner Records, which put them on tour supporting such bands as Disturbed, Fear Factory, Coal Chamber, Soulfly and Danzig.
The band went through many highs and lows, including a Best Metal Performance Grammy nomination in 2004 for their song ‘Smothered.’ At the same time, problems with Roadrunner Records and the temporary departure of vocalist Jonny Santos put the band on hiatus.
Guitarist Mike Sarkisyan recently spoke with Noisecreep about Spineshank’s forthcoming album, ‘Anger Denial Acceptance,’ and what led up to the relaunch of the band.
Noisecreep: When did you officially re-launch Spineshank?
Mike Sarkisyan: I wanna say it was June of 2008. We started writing songs and sort of a skeleton of a record together. Then we went on tour on the Music As A Weapon [Tour]. In 2009, that whole year we did nothing. We got our gear stolen. We had a bunch of things happen to us. We officially reconvened making the record very late in the year and finished mixing in February.
Looking back, the band broke up at the height of it’s career in a way.
I guess you could say that. We finished a sold-out tour, got nominated for a Grammy, and then we went on hiatus, or disbanded — whatever you want to call it. So we sort of left on a high note.
The highs and lows all hit at the same time.
Yeah I guess. What you have to understand is prior to that, from 1996, when we got together, up until that point, we were non-stop — whether it was touring, recording, writing, whatever it was, it was non-stop. I think we were exhausted.
You tried doing a different version of Spineshank during the time off with a couple different singers.
I wouldn’t call it a different version of Spineshank. The stuff that we wrote sounded nothing like Spineshank and didn’t end up on this record. We worked with a couple different singers. We worked with Jonny [Sculls Flanagan], who is now in We Are The Riot. We worked with him on and off for six or seven months. There was this other guy, Brandon [Espinoza], who we worked with. It was good stuff. It wasn’t what we wanted to do. I could see us writing a song or two, but I couldn’t see us writing a whole record with that lineup. The whole Spineshank thing wasn’t in the back of my head as to whether we would call this Spineshank or not. It was never an issue at all.
Tell us about the new album.
It’s called ‘Anger Denial Acceptance.’ It’s produced by me and Tommy. It was mixed by Mike Plotnikoff. It’s sitting there waiting to get released now.
I’ll tell you this. If anybody is expecting us to sound exactly the way we did when we put out our last record, they’re probably going to be disappointed. It’s definitely… dare I say the word growth? Or mature? You can expect us to sound the way we did seven years ago. It definitely does sound like Spineshank. It doesn’t sound like any other band. The only way I could put it to you is it, is not dated sounding. It’s sort of a loose concept record. It somewhat tells a story. There’s an underlining theme to the whole thing. The title ties into it. It’s about loss, and the different stages of dealing with loss. It’s a pretty elaborate record, I’ll tell you that much. I think a lot of people will be rather surprised to hear something this elaborate coming from us. It’s the next step.
Any song titles you would like to share?
The first song is called ‘After the End.’ Second song is called ‘Nothing Left For Me.’ Third one is ‘Anger Denial Acceptance,’ which is the title track. Fourth one is called ‘I Want You To Know.’ Track five is ‘Murder Suicide.’ Track Six is the ‘The Endless Disconnect.’ Track seven is ‘I Am Damage.’ Then there’s an interlude. After that is ‘Everything Everyone Everywhere Ends.’ Then there’s ‘The Reckoning.’ And then what we did, and this is kind of cool, is the song ‘Anger Denial Acceptance’ is really weird. It’s in three parts. So we took each part and wrote a whole other song around it. Those are the last three on the record. They flow one into another but its three different songs. It’s doesn’t stop. The first one is called ‘God Complex.’ The second one is called ‘Lord of Method Opportunity.’ The last one is called ‘Exit Wound.’
Jonny is back in Spineshank. Do you feel the time apart improved the relationships within the band?
The way I look at it is, Spineshank is us four dudes. It’s me, Tommy, Rob [Garcia] and Jonny. In order for it to be called Spineshank, I believe we owe it to our fans to have the original four dudes. Very rarely does it happen where a band can have a different singer and still call it that. People are going to crucify me for this, but when Motley Crue got [John] Corabi, as much as I love that record, it’s an amazing record but it’s not a Motley Crue record. It shouldn’t be called Motley Crue. There’s definitely some kind of chemistry that happens within the four of us that you can’t replicate without any of those ingredients.
You’ve been producing more lately. Was this something you were always interested in?
I think from minute one of starting Spineshank, back when I was 17 and had a little four track, me and Tommy [Decker] took interest in the whole recording process. Obviously it grew from that into doing the earlier Spineshank records and co-producing the last two records with Gggarth Richardson. So the studio is something that both I and Tommy feel really super comfortable in. We know it inside and out. We know how to get tones and what we’re going for. Even if you’re working with a different engineer or a different producer, it’s a lot easier to convey what you’re saying to them when you know what you’re talking about. It kind of happened. It wasn’t necessarily something we planned on doing, but it was a natural growth.
I worked (engineering) on the first Five Finger Death Punch actually. I produced a band called Destroy the Runner. I don’t think they’re around any more. I think it came out on Tooth & Nail. Lately I’ve been working a lot with All Hail The Yeti. It was kind of an on and off thing, and once our record was done, it was like I needed to do something.
What’s it like producing your own band considering you have this odd love/hate relationship within the band?
It’s a bitch I’ll tell you that much! The hardest part is keeping yourself in check. That’s why I need someone to bounce ideas off of, and that’s where Tommy comes in and vice versa. The hardest part is stepping out of the picture, thinking [as a] producer and what’s good for the song. Even on this record, as elaborate as the guitar parts are, I step out of that. I don’t look at it as a guitar player. I look at it more from the songwriting aspects. The guitar player ego thing is foreign to me.
So how much of the new record have you played live so far?
The song we used to play a lot was ‘Born Conform Repent.’ Even though we did record it and mix it for this record, it’s not going to be on it. It’s probably going to be some sort of a B-side or for a soundtrack. It doesn’t fit the flow of the record. Other than that, every once in a blue moon, we would play a song called ‘I Am Damage,’ which is on the record.
Are you currently shopping ‘Anger Denial Acceptance’ to labels or distributors?
We’re pretty damn close to it. Very close to it. The problem is that we spent a long time making this record. It’s the most personal we’ve ever been and it’s like my baby. I’m sure everybody else will say the same thing. It’s really hard to let it go, and we want to make sure whoever puts this record out is going to care about it as much as we do. We don’t want to just s— it out and ‘now it’s out.’ We want the proper support and we want the people working the record understand it and care about it as much as we do.
Watch the video for ‘Smothered’